Over the past few months, I have been seeing many couples and individuals coming in with relationship issues. The single clients have been complaining how difficult it is to sustain a positive relationship and the couples come in telling me I am their last hope before divorce. How discouraging is that!? The problems are, of course, varied, complex and multi-layered; however upon further examination, there is a common history that most of them share. When we start talking about their past relationships and how it compares to the present one, most of them tend to see that they seem to have patterns in the kinds of people they attract time and time again, and usually these patterns are not positive. After only a few sessions, many notice or recognize that a lot of the characteristics they end up resenting/seeing in their partners have also existed in one or both parents. Does this ring a bell with you?

Breaking your relationship patterns may be an important goal for you to strive for if you have noticed any patterns in your own relationships. Do you often think that this may be “the one” when you begin a new relationship? Do you often think that this person is totally different from all the others, and yet, fast forward a few months or years and you start saying to yourself, “How did I do that again?” They may be coming from a different background, different education, career path or even a different language but sooner or later those negative feelings and experiences start reappearing. You start feeling unhappy, unheard, depressed, trapped and maybe even angry with yourself when you find yourself in another dysfunctional relationship. The good news is that it is a very common occurrence. You are among the majority of the population who tend to repeat their patterns when it comes to relationships.

Why do you think the statistic for 2nd marriages are 50% failure and 65% failure for blended families? Because most people don’t learn from their past relationships; they think that once they change partners, all problems will disappear. This may work for a few months, but after the honeymoon period is over and your partner feels he/she no longer needs to be on their best behaviour, you start seeing another side emerging. You may start to see signs such as jealousy, anger, lying, manipulation and controlling behaviours appearing more and more frequently. At first most people try to excuse or defend their partner’s negative behaviours. They need to convince themselves that it is an exception and that the wonderful person they fell in love with will soon return. However after several months or years, they often find out that the person they fell in love with was just an illusion manufactured to win them over. Once the honeymoon is over, the real person with the real character takes front stage. Once you get it and give up the hope that he/she will ever go back to the person you feel in love with, you may leave, but if you haven’t done the work, you are likely to fall for the same type, over and over again. The good news is it doesn't have to be this way.

Those who recognize that they do have a pattern are at an advantage because insight is necessary before change can occur. The next step is to figure out what your patterns consist of, and then work on changing them. There are simple tools that will help you achieve this, and once you recognize your patterns, you can start focusing on attracting healthier and more stable relationships into your life. If you want to stay in your relationship and work on dealing with these issues, couple counseling is the best way to understand and deal with these patterns within the relationship rather letting them destroy the relationship.

Understanding your patterns and issues:

What are some of the issues that you bring with you from your childhood? For most people, these issues could include fear of rejection, abandonment, feeling unsafe or unloved, not getting enough attention as a child and not feeling validated, to name a few. These are very common wounds that need to be healed. Face these fears and learn how to release them and have closure, then you are opening up to attracting a loving relationship. Also, if you are already in a relationship become aware of your own triggers. When conflict comes up in your relationship and you are having strong reactions, it usually not just because you have been “triggered” but also because these are childhood issues being played out in your present relationship.

When looking at your patterns, you want to explore what kind of people you tend to be attracted to and then ask yourself if this is a healthy or a toxic attraction. Ask yourselves these questions to help figure it out.
- Are most of the people you are attracted to emotionally healthy and stable or do you need to “help” them or “fix” them?
- If you meet someone who is down to earth, stable and secure, do you see him/her as a great partner material or boring?
- Do you need to be needed, then you will attract partners who cling?
- Do you need to rescue or fix, then you will attract people in perpetual crises?
- Do you need to always be right, then you will attract people who are passive and indecisive and eventually you will lose respect for them and resent them for being weak?
- Do you want someone to rescue and take care of you? Then you will attract a controlling partner.
- Are you falling in love with him or the potential of who he can become? Not everyone ends up reaching his or her potential.

If you want a healthy, loving relationship, you must first become a healthy, loving partner yourself. Everyone has positives and negative aspects to their personality. No one only comes with the positives; we all have a mixed bag. But it is the degree of the negatives that you need to explore. How you measure a successful relationship is less about pretending that things don’t upset or bother you, it is more about learning how to deal with the conflicts and disagreements with respect, understanding and support. This needs to be an investment on both sides.

We all need to feel heard, validated, encouraged and safe, even if we don’t agree on a particular subject. If we feel we can’t express our needs safely without repercussions, we will keep it inside and then resentment will build. If you can only be happy if your partner agrees, you are forcing them to choose between lying to you to keep the peace or arguing and creating a power struggle. In a power struggle only one person can win, which means you or your partner needs to lose. Not a great recipe for a healthy, loving relationship.

Falling in love and staying in love are two very different processes. We bring ourselves with us wherever we go. Understanding your issues will help when dealing with conflict in a relationship. Learn what your patterns are. If a great relationship is one of your goals, you must first understand and deconstruct your foundational learning about relationships. To start with you have to deal with and let go of your negative feelings about your parents; what they did and what they didn’t do. You don’t have to forgive abuse or neglect, but have to make peace with the past or else you are likely doomed to repeat it. This does take effort, but it is possible. Only once you release the past and focus on what is important for you to feel valued and respected can you attract a healthy relationship and isn’t that what everyone wants?

Warmest regards.

Author's Bio: 

Montreal psychotherapist, Rhonda Rabow, has been involved in couple and individual therapy in the Montreal area for over twenty years. One of her specialties is offering short-term counselling with long-term results. Rhonda has a solution-focused approach. Her Montreal therapy sessions do more than offer compassion, empathy and active listening. Rhonda is a strong advocate for empowering her clients. To help them achieve this goal, she offers concrete tools and strategies that enable her clients to better manage their lives and cope with any further challenges they may experience in their lives.